The Taiwanese pilot of an F-16 Fighting Falcon that crashed in Arizona on Thursday has likely been found dead.
Officials from Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, where the student pilot from the Taiwanese Air Force was training, said in a release late Thursday that an interim safety board found human remains at the crash site. The coroner will conduct additional tests for a final, positive identification.
"While this is not conclusive, it is another indication the pilot did not survive the accident," Luke said.
The F-16 was also from Taiwan.
Base officials said the man was flying solo and engaged in air-to-air combat training with an instructor when his F-16 went down for still unknown reasons. The jet crashed at about 8:45 a.m. local time north of Luke, near Bagdad, Arizona.
"Our thoughts and focus continue to be on the family and giving them our full support during this difficult time," Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, commander of the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke, said in the release.
Pleus said at a late afternoon news conference that the student pilot had been in a training program for the past six months at Luke, which is a major pilot-training base for the Air Force and foreign military services.
In a release, the 56th said local authorities found the crash site and notified the wing.
Dwight D'Evelyn, a spokesman for the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office in Arizona, said in a phone interview that a Yavapai deputy sheriff flying a rescue helicopter spotted the crash site at about 12:40 p.m. local time, roughly four hours after the jet crashed. D'Evelyn said the sheriff's office got a tip from hunters in the area who saw a plume of smoke, which led officials to the crash site.
D'Evelyn said the jet crashed about 5 miles southwest of Bagdad in a very hilly area.
The Fighting Falcon first flew in 1976 and is known for its maneuverability and capability in both air-to-air and air-to-ground combat. The F-16 played a key role in Operation Desert Storm, the Afghanistan War and the Iraq War.
Stephen Losey covers personnel, promotions, and the Air Force Academy for Air Force Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Associated Press contributed to this report.